ESTIMATING THE JOB LIKE A PRO
ESTIMATING THE JOB LIKE A PRO
To estimate the cost of your landscape lighting project, you’ll need to take into account three things: the cost of your materials, the amount of labor required for the project, and your overhead expenses. We’ll talk about each of these components and then take a moment to consider how to break out your costs to easily divide the project into stages or break down the proposal into options for a homeowner.
1 - MATERIAL COSTS
For a landscape lighting installation, the bulk of the cost is in the components of the system. There aren’t ancillary materials like rock or gravel, mulch or plant material that need to be sourced from different distributors to complicate your material estimate. Here’s a checklist of the materials you’ll need to account for in your landscape lighting system material estimate:
- Fixtures: accent lights, path lights, and/or hardscaping or specialty lights
- Lamps: if not included with the fixtures
- Wire: enough to run the whole system, sized appropriately for the amp draw of the most demanding run
- Wire connectors
- Additional items that could be needed include schedule 40 pipe for running wire under sidewalks, specialty hardware for mounting the transformer, if necessary, and zip ties or wire brackets for running wire along tree trunks, pergolas, or other architectural features.
2 - LABOR
A typical landscape lighting installation takes about a day to install, which breaks down to roughly 20 minutes per fixture. There are lots of variables that can affect this, including the efficiency of your crew, the difficulty of burying wire runs (which can be complicated in areas with rocky soil or in lawns with lots of mature trees), and the complexity of installing fixtures. If there are lots of fixtures mounted in the architecture or in trees, this can add quite a bit of time.
The installation of the system includes the following tasks: mounting and wiring the transformer, mounting each fixture in its ground stake or onto the tree or architectural element, running wire to and connecting each fixture, and burying wire runs in the ground. Add some time to test the system, fix any problems, bury the connections and clean up the job site.
3 - OVERHEAD / SPECIALTY TOOLS
Landscape lighting doesn’t require many special tools, but you will need a few basic tools that you probably already have in your shop: a drain spade for cutting slits in the lawn to bury the wire, a rubber mallet for pounding in stakes, wire strippers, and a volt meter. If you’re mounting fixtures in trees or on the architecture, you might also require ladders, and if you need to run the wiring under a sidewalk, you’ll need a sledge hammer and length of schedule 40 pipe. If you need to purchase any of these tools, make sure that you add it into the cost of the project.
As a contractor, you’ll also need to include your overhead costs in your estimate. You should have some idea of what your overhead costs are, including shop rent, administrative staff, vehicle costs, tools and other expenses. You should build these costs into your labor rate and materials bid, or into a breakdown of the services provided.
4 - BREAKING DOWN YOUR ESTIMATE
There are lots of ways to break down the estimate when presenting it to a client, including a breakdown into materials and labor. One effective method is to divide the estimate into zones or stages. This way, you or your client can choose which parts of the system you’d like to install.
- Calculate a base. This should include the transformer and a base zone or two that you know will be included, such as the sidewalk and lighting on the house. The size of the transformer will depend on how many zones are ultimately installed, but if you size the transformer for the whole system proposed, you can install all of the zones or stages over time without having to change the transformer or add another one.
- •Calculate a cost for each zone. Break the zones down into pieces that will work together to create a coherent scheme, not necessarily grouped together spatially. For instance, a quote that has the house and front path as a base, additional stages might include such items as: Front yard trees, back yard trees, deck / pool / patio, etc.
Offering concrete options that can easily be chosen or struck out will allow you to quickly adjust the system estimate to the project budget.
Homeowners everywhere love their landscape lighting systems - and if the budget isn’t big enough to do everything at once, a plan broken into stages will create a ready-made plan to install the system you want as the budget is there to do so.